Kind, courageous, compassionate and contributing – in more ways than we can possibly count – our trailblazing *M.O.M.S. (moms on a mission) are giving back to our communities in leaps and bounds, redefining what it means to do good in the world.
Jen Maxfield Ostfeld, WNBC news reporter and busy mom of 3 and Manuela Borelli Seigerman busy mom of 2, are creating awareness for so many local causes and have made a huge impact on organizations that need support. Bergen Mama Editor Jennifer Law sits down with them to learn more about their grass-roots crusade.
So we know you’ve dedicated a lot of time to “service”. Give us some examples of how you have helped others in need?
Manuela: Every year, for our birthdays, we choose something meaningful, close to our hearts, and we start planning our celebrations based on how we can get our friends to participate in helping. When we celebrated Sofia’s and Matthew’s 1st birthday we invited kids from an orphanage to join us for an afternoon of playing and feeling special! The guests were asked to donate from a list of the orphanage’s most needed items. We’ve done many different charities, from collecting newborn clothes for pregnant teenagers in need to helping build a house for a family that was experiencing poverty in ways that 6 children ended up hospitalized with pneumonia. It truly became a family tradition. Each year we look forward to creating wonderful memories not only for our family but to many other people.
I know you organized a backpack drive in coordination with the Women’s Rights Information Center here in Bergen, tell us about that as well as any other charity events you have worked on.
Jen: For families in need, back to school can be an expensive time. I thought while local families were shopping for their own backpacks, they could donate a new one to a family with school supplies included. So I coordinated with local stores for discounts and drop-off locations and we were able to help the Women’s Rights Information Center distribute these backpacks to needy families. We also work with the Center for Food Action to assemble snack packs for kids who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches at school to make sure they have adequate food on the weekends at home. On September 11, more than hundreds of people came to the Englewood Field Club to help us make more than 2000 snack packs. It felt good to do something positive for our community on such a sad anniversary.
What do you say to the moms that say that it won’t make a difference?
Manuela: Even if you can touch one life it helps, even something as small as saying “hi” to someone at the grocery store can make a person smile. A drop in the bucket to you may be the ocean to someone else.
Jen: We try to show families that it’s easy to get involved and help and there are so many deserving organizations. There are many ways that children can help, and they feel good helping other kids who are not as fortunate.
Have you seen any impact on your kids?
Jen: Teaching my kids to help others and showing them to appreciate what they have are some of my reasons for giving back. And I think they do feel helping people in need is part of their role in our society because of the service we are doing.
Manuela: My kids understand that reality is not what they see everyday. Every time I plan my kids birthday parties, we incorporate a theme of helping others in need. By doing that they can experience how happy giving makes a person feel; from both sides.
How do you see this evolving as the kids get older?
Jen: More hands-on experiences and international service trips. We would love to start expanding our focus to include people from other parts of the world but I would like to do it in person.
Manuela: Respectful citizens, caring friends, honest adults, I hope they will be able to gather as many people as they can to help transform the world.
How do you pick the charities that you work with?
Jen: They are usually family related. But my husband and I are also supporters of the Opportunity Network in NYC, which focuses on mentoring high-achieving, low-income high school and college students and helping them get top jobs after graduation. The kids have already done all of the hard work, we are just helping them make connections.
Manuela: Some I’ve been working since I was a little girl doing volunteer work. Some are local organizations that I became familiar in the past few years.
Do you do anything special over the holidays?
Jen: We celebrate being thankful all the time. It’s not just a holiday activity- we incorporate appreciation into our everyday life.
Manuela: We ask our kids every night, “What’s the one great thing you’ve done today.” It’s our daily ritual. We should not wait for a special occasion to do good things or to be grateful for them.